tv Meet the Press NBC December 20, 2009 10:30am-11:30am EST
we need a strong energy and climate bill to create stable markets so u.s. businesses can be leaders in the world. tell the senate to pass a strong energy and climate bill - because this isn't about politics, it's about people. from nbc news in washington captions paid for by nbc-universal televion nbc-universal television this sunday, the democrats this sunday, the democrats now appear to have the votes to pass sweeping health care reform in the senate and the president stands on the brink of a major legislative victory poppite now appears the american people will have the vote they deserve. >> but the white house failed to win any republican support for the measure. >> this bill is a legislative train wreck of historic proportions. >> before the final vote, the debate over whether this is real
reform, pitting democrats against democrats. >> for me, i would kill the bill entirely. >> i don't think any rational person would say killing the bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point. >> what's next? and what's the political impact of this legislation in 2010 and beyond? joining us, the president's senior adviser, david axelrod. and then the man who helped ignite a debate over health care within his party, former dnc chairman and 2004 democratic presidential candidate, howard dean. our round table weighs in as well on the politics of health care and the huge political challenges facing this white house in the new year, as it tackles high unemployment and a sour mood in the country. with us, msnbc's joe scarborough, markos moulitsas, former rnc chair ed gillespie and tavis smiley.
but first, the great blizzard of december of 2009 blanketed the east coast. it dumped nearly 2 inches of snow on the nation's capital. it served as a backdrop for a flurry of activity in the halls of congress as senate democrats reached a compromise agreement to move health care reform one step closer. the senior adviser whoraded loafers in for snow shoes this morning. >> we call this a dusting in new york. >> i'm from here. this is a big deal. you appear to have a coffer mize, 60 votes, now that ben nelson is onboard. is this mission accomplished? or does this represent a selling out of key principles that the president fought for initially on health care? >> oh, no. i think this adheres to the key principles. it's going to bring more security to people who have insurance today in relation to their insurance companies. it will reduce their costs over time as well.
it's going to help people who don't have insurance. small businesses, or people who can't afford it through their employer, get it at a cost they can afford. it's going to extend the life of medicare and give seniors more support in terms of prescription drugs and better care. and in the long run, it's going to reduce our deficits, the cbo said yesterday by $132 billion in the first ten years, over $1 trillion in the second, and stop the inexorable rise in health care budgets. >> do you describe it as mission accomplished? >> no. i think it's a landmark step. it's a great step. i agree with much of what paul krugman wrote, it is light years ahead of what we had. if you're a person with a pre-existing condition today, you're excluded by getting
insurance by most insurance companies. i went through that with my child. i couldn't get her on insurance couldn't afford the out-of-pocket expenses there are myriad other examples of people who will benefit from these changes. >> let me back up and talk about some procedure. is this a done deal? will this pass the cogress? >> i think it will pass the congress. i mean, obviously it's a big step along the way. we've got additional steps to take, the house has a bill, the senate has a bill. >> and there are key differences, including the house has a public option to create more competition, the senate bill does not. >> no, but the senate bill has some very tough restrictions in terms of how insurance companies can spend the money that they collect from premiums. it has a great accountability for insurance companies. it creates competition between private insurers and gives people options and choice. >> how hard will it be to reconcile the two? >> i think we're going to get it
done. i think people understand this is an historic cross roads, david. seven presidents have tried to pass comprehensive health insurance health reform. seven presidents have failed. we've been talking about it for 100 years. we're on the doorstep of getting it done and it will be a great victory for the american people. >> some people question about whether the senate rules ought to be change. in order to avoid a filibuster you needed 60 votes. you were able to get there with ben nelson, but a lot of people including planned parenthood, condemning the abortion agreement, it would place greater restrictions on getting abortions in the states in these exchan exchanges. he also got extra money for medicaid. do you think it ought to be changed in the senate so it doesn't rely -- all , all of thh care reform on one senator? >> let me address abortion. there's been concern from pro choice groups and some anti-choice groups, pro life groups on this.
he status quo s it really and that's what we're after. the president said this should not be the vehicle through which the abortion debate and changes in the abortion law should come. these are time-honored rules in the senate. i mean, obviously it makes them more difficult. they were structured that way. what we should be able to do, though, is move forward in good faith, and what we've seen is the rules being used time and time and time again to delay votes, to try and scuttle legislation by -- through parliamentary maneuvers, because there's a majority of senators who support health insurance reform. we ought to have an up or down vote. >> are you going to get this by the end of the year? >> well, i think that -- i'm confident that the senate is going to vote on this before they go home. >> before christmas, but then a final bill, a reconciled bill, do you think you get it by the end of this year? >> oh, no. i think we're going to have some work to do when we come back, but obviously this is a major step forward. >> let me talk about where the
public is on this. this is our poll this week. good idea, bad idea, the president's health care plan. 47% say it's a bad idea. 44% said they thought it would be better to keep the current system. is the public really for this? >> i think there's a big anomaly in the polls that's worth discussing. when you ask people do you support the bill working through congress, the president's bill, so on. they give you that result. when you describe the bill, when you describe there's protections for patients and consumers within the system, a patient bill of rights on steroids. we've had that debate for years. are we going to protect patients? when you explain that small businesses are going to get tax credits and assistance so they can offer health insurance for individuals who don't get it through work are going to be able to get health insurance at a price they can afford, when you talk about the fact that it reduces deficits, extends the life of medicare, when you talk about all of those things, poem are very strongly supportive, but that's not the picture they've gotten through this kind of narrow debate we've seen on
television and congress. >> the fact that you have no republican votes is striking here for health care reform. if you go back to social security or the medicare vote in the '60s, significant republican support. is this a failure of leadership that the president can't get one republican to support this? >> obviously we live in different times. i wish we had the kind of spirit of cooperation that you saw in past generations. we live in a different tile. if one senate republican just said if we defeat this bill, we can inflict a great political loss on the president and that should help us as a party. we shouldn't be thinking in those terms. we should be thinking about people who get thrown awe of insurance because they become seriously ill or go bankrupt because of a serious illness. they will be helped by this legislation, and that's what we should be -- >> how do you describe and assess the republican minority in washington today?
>> in what regard? i mean, i think what's clear is that they have adopted a strategy of opposition, a they have not offered alternative -- significant alternative ideas other than to go back to what we've done before. look, historicallythese health reforms have been beaten by the special interest, the insurance industry. they're trying to defeat it now. the republican party historically has stood with the insurance industry in trying to beat back reform and they're playin that traditional role and that's a shame. >> you've got it not just from the right, but you've also got criticism from the left. there was something of a revolt in the democratic party over health care this week, led by former dnc chairman howard dean who we'll be speaking to on the program in just a couple of minutes. essentially he said this is not reform. if i was a senator, i would vote against it. how do you react to that? >> first of all, let me say, i respect howard dean. i think he cares passionately about this issue. he's a medical doctor, but he
just wasn't familiar with some of the aspects of this legislation. he said, for example, that insurance companies could skim off unlimited amounts for bonuses and ceo pay. this strictly limit what is they can do and consumers will get rebates if they exceed those limits, and those limits are high and reasonable. he said that people would be forced to buy insurance at a price they can afford. there's a hardship exemption, tho one would be forced to buy a policy for more than 8% of their income and they get all kinds of assistance in terms of tax credits to do so. i think if you look at the bill in its totality, it doesn't square up with his critique. >> but liberals say look what the you gave up along the way, medicare expansion, a public option. look at the president's performance when it came to getting this compromise, versus how he campaigned for health care as a candidate.
and i've got a few of the bullet points of campaign promises made. there would be universe coverage when it came to getting health care. he opposed an individual mandate which, of course, is part of this bill. and he indicated this would be paid for by rolling back bush tax cuts. there's not universe coverage, and there's huge number of taxes. >> here's what i see. a bill that will afford 31 million who don't have insurance today a chance to get it. it wl help small who can't give their employees a chance to get it. it will help people who have insurance so they have the power in their relationship with their insurance companies. it will reduce the -- the president talked about reducing this inexrabble rise in premiums and in the cost to our budgets. it will do that. it will improve care.
i think this is major reform. it's the reform he spoke about. >> but this is a compromise. it's not the reform he talked about >> there's no legislation that's ever been passed in this country, david, that doesn't include compromise. that's the legislative process. but the question is, in the main, does it achieve what we wanted it to achieve? it's not pe fect. and over time it may be improved as all legislation -- >> do you think it should be improved? >> well, look, the president supported a public option, but there are other ways to get competition and choice. >> he did not fight for it till the end of the day. >> well, look, he made the case again and again for it, but understand, this is a small part a large health care reform. the public option was within this health insurance exchange for the 30 million who can't get health care. the estimates from the cbo is that, you know, about 5 million people would have availed
themselves of it in a country of 300 million people. it's important, it's valuable, but so are the reforms in there now. there's going to be competition and choice for everyone who doesn't have insurance today. they're going to get it at a price they can afford, and we won't have this horrible situation where if you move -- if you change jobs or lose your job that you find yourself suddenly vulnerable to catastrophe. >> i want to press you on one other point that needs to be challenged, it seems to me. the president said this he cost curve. now, i take that to mean you bend the cost curve, health care costs begin to come down. in fact in this legislation, and not just those familiar with it but other experts say it's not the case. it will not actually bring costs down. over a ten-year period, costs will go up. they may be contained, but they are going to go up. health care costs do go up. there are only pilot programs in this legislation that actually bend the cost curve.
this is not reform when it comes to bringing down overall health care costs. >> i would say a few things about that. all the health care economists look at this bill and say it contains many or most or all of the sort of major devices that have been talked about for lowering care. the bill -- the amendment that was added yesterday will quickly expand these pilot projects as they work nationally. you know, you can look at what the cbo has said it's going to reduce deficits by $132 billion the first year and by $1 trillion the next year and it's going to save thousands of dollars in premiums for the average family over the next decade. >> but that's slightly different than saying health care costs are going to actually come down. and that was the priority that initially the president talked about. >> no, the president said we have to slow the growth of the premiums which is doubled in the last ten years and will double again in the next ten years or more if we don't act. >> let me ask you finally about the political impact of all of
this. this is the president's approval rating now according to our poll. he's below 50% at 47%. among indepartments, his approval rating is at 40%, down from 58% back in marc peter hart, the democratic pollster indicates the red flags are flying at full mast. at what political cost to the democratic party in 2010 and 2012 have you achieved this victory? >> well, firsall, i don't ascribe poll numbers to this particular issue. i think that we're governing, remember, in an economically difficult time. we came to office in the greatest economic downturn since the great depression, and so,of course, i could have told you a year ago that our numbers were not going to be -- were not going to be as strong a year later, but here's the thing, david. if we -- i guarantee you that the one thing the president is not doing is spreading the nbc or any other poll in front of him and pondering the political
ramifications. what he's looking at are the millions and millions of people who have pre-existing condition, who can't get health care. the millions of people who, working people who can't get health coverage because they can't afford it. he's looking at the implications iffer our long-term budget if we don't act. he's looking at medicare and its survivability. we'll add ten yores to medicare through this health reform. those are the numbers he's looking at. the esident's belief is if he does his job and moves this country forward, the rest will take care of itself. i don't think anybody wants a president who's governing according to the nbc/"wall street journal" poll or any other. >> he spent a lot of political capital on this fight. will it cost house or senate seats? >> i think a year from now when this bill passes and a wave of insurance reforms are implemented that give people more power in their relationship with their insurance companies so they're not the victims of arbitrary decisions, when seniors realize that their prescription drug costs are less
because we've begun to fill in that doughnut hole. when small businesses, begin to get tax credits to get health care, they're going to say you know what, this is a pretty good deal for us. >> are the democrats going to loses because of this legislation? >> i'm not going to predict where we are. again, we're governing through difficult times. i think we're going to be in a better place. what i suggest is that you guys wait until next october to talk about polls, when they're actually germe to an election, because that's an eternity away. >> all right, david axelrod, thanks very much. >> good to be with you. >> continued good luck with your hard work. now we've been joined by a democrat who's been critical of the senate health carbill. you heard david axelrod here, that this is significant reform, but something short of mission accomplished. what do you say this morning? >> well, first of all, you got more snow than we do up here in vermont.
well, start with the positive things. over the last week, there were some things that were improved. david mentioned the so-called medical loss ratio, the limits on what insurance companies make, and that was true. that was added to the bill. it was in a form that the cbo wouldn't have allowed and now it was allowed. it's not all that strong, but it's strong. we can expect some gaming by the insurance companies, but it's there. there were some cost control mechanisms that were gutted. they got restored. so there are some things here, but there are some big loopholes. the major cost control going to control costs, which had been gutted in the bill as of a week ago is restored, except that it doesn't apply to hospitals which, of course, is the biggest drivers of cost controls. i mean, of cost increases. so the bill is better than it was, but it's still got a long way to go. right now i'm going to disagree with david on a number of things. the pre-existing conditions and the aging. the senate bill says you can
charge three times as much for somebody who's older than who'sdowner. the house says twice as much. in vermont it's 20% more. 1.2 times what an ordinary person pays. there is going to be insurance that's unaffordable. supse you make $70,000, $80,000 a year, you could end up paying $20,000 for your insurance under this senate bill. there are some big, big problems. here's the major problem, david. we have committed in this last week of unseemingly scrambling for votes, we have committed to go down a path in this country where private insurance will be the way that we achieve universal health care. that mean weers going to have a 30-year battle with the insurance industry every time we try to control costs and try to get them to do things. it is not a coincidence, david gregory, that insurance company stocks, health insurance company stocks hit a 52-year high on friday. so they must know something that the rest of us don't.
>> the question is whether this is in keeping with the president's principles on health care. the way he campaigned, the promises he made in terms of how he would lead an effort to get health care reform, including the public option, which you heard david axelrod say he supported. did he fight for these principles in your view the way he should have? >> well look, i think this is not universal health care. it's about 94%, t he certainly tried very hard. but i think the absence of having choices for americans, real choices including a system like medicare, which only has 4% of its expenditure go to nonhealth care expenditure, as opposed to 20% in this bill that's just about to pass, i think that's a big loss. and the bottom line is in an unseemly scramble for vote that have nothing to do with long-range public policy, we have really essentially cut out the idea that americans will have a choice of a different kind of insurance system.
the same kind of insurance system that people over 65 the same kind of insurance that veterans have. a lot of us would like to have had that system, because it's so much more effective and frankly so much more satisfactory than what we see in front of us. >> you say an unseemly scrambling if votes. for senator lieberman, they had to give up medicare expansion or he would not vote for it. for senator nelson, restriions on whether these abortions can be paid for in a federal exchange of private insurance plans. given this rush and the compromises made for votes, do you stand by your words this week that you would not vote for this bill? >> i would certainly not vote for this bill if this were the final product, but the house bill is quite a good bill. this bill is improved over the last uple of weeks. i would let this thing go to conference committee and let's see if we can fix it some more. >> what needs to be fixed specifically? >> well, first of all, the cost controls need to apply to hospitals. second of all, we really do need
some kind of a public option. at least allow the states to have a public tion, a real public option. some senators have said well, there's a public option to the bill. well, that'sot really true. the public option in this bill is allowing the federal government to negotiate with private insurance companies. that's not a public tion. >> do you really expect the white house to fight for any form of a public option at this stage of the game? >> well, obviously we've been very disappointed by that. we don't think there has been much fight in the white house for that. another big piece that needs to be fixed is, i don't think we ought to be able to charge older people three times asuch as you charge younger people. the house says twice as much. that's still too much. if they are fixed, you may actually get a foundation of a bill coming out of the house. if most of the house provisions survive, then weould have a bill that we can work with. but this elimination of the public option is a real sticking point. that, in fact is how you really save money and bend the curve. >> the advice, former chairman
of the party and house and senate democrats comes to the point of a final bill. if it does not have a public option, your advice would be to vote no? >> i think it's got to have a public option, at least allow some of the states -- now, there are two countries that have done this without a public option, switzer land and netherlands, but they treat insurance companies as public utilities. that's what we would have to do. and i don't have an objection to that. my concern about the public option is not ideological. but i just think a 30-year fight with the surance industry over every little detail about how they're going to control costs is something, judging by this past week with where the insurance companies essentially wrote the bill is not gng to happen. >> my question was, without the public option, is your position say no to the bill? >> my position is let's see what they add to this bill and make it work. if they can make it work without a public option, i'm all ears. i don't think that's possible. >> the question of compromise is a very interesting one. back in 1995 in the wake of the collapse of health care reform,
you said that you made a mistake. you and others made a mistake by not compromises on health care with the republicans. and vicki kennedy, the widow of the late senator kennedy has penned an op-ed. she writes -- >> you heard david axelrod essentially say legislation like this is so difficult. you can never achieve perfection. in the light of what vicki kennedy says,ve a different view on whether compromise has been worth it here? >> i think there's been an enormous amount of compromise. i think it's been too much. we have set this nation down a
course where we're going to do this through public insurance. it is -- i mean private insurance. it is possible to do that. two other countries that i know of do that exclusively in private insurance. it is very, very difficult. it is very, very expensive. we're nowhere near where switzerland and the netherlands are in a private apparatus in the insurance industry. so i just think this is going to be a very, very difficult tough road to hoe. she also said in this editorial we need to make sure we get this right. i agree with that. >> the politics of this are part of it. and people have talked about it. indeed, your opposition this week set off something of a revolt in the party, led to some strange political bedfellows for you. senator john mccain on the floor of the senate said this -- >> if you live long enough, all things can happen. i now find myself in complete agreement with dr. howard dean
who says that we should stop this bill in its tracks. we should go back to the beginning and have an overall bipartisan agreement. drchl dea dr. dean, i am with you. >> you know, the republicans' behavior has been reprehensible. they have really put their party in front of their country here. they could have made this bill a better bill, but they chose just to kill the bill because they thought they could do it for political reasons. i don't believe a bipartisan bill is possible.e republican p mccain isn't even the same as it was eight years ago. i respect john mccain, but he wouldn't be the first person who twisted my words around and use it for something i don't endorse which is the republican behavior in regards to this bill. >> do you intend to stay in the
democratic party? >> of course, absolutely. i've said i would vigorously support the president's re-election in 2012. i have every intention of doing that. look, whatever fights we have inside the democratic party, and this is a very, very, very sore one, because i really do think we're going down a track that's not goe to be helpful in the long run without some really brutal fights ahead of us, but president obama, first of all, has had a terrific record on the environment, despite his struggles, i think he's moved the dialogue in copenhagen forward. he restored america's good name around the rest of the world. i mean, he is so far ahead of whatever the republicans might choose to do in 2012 that of course i'm going to support president obama. >> the columnist for "the washington post" e.j.dionne warned of political catastrophe in the democrats keep turning on one another over health dare and other issue ps. what would be the political consequence of this health care debate and the compromise that's been achieved.
>> first of all, i hope this isn't the compromise that's been achieved. i think we have yet to see the compromise we could achieve. secondly, this isn't personal. i like david axelrod. we've actually talked back and forth through the week, as i have with other people in the white house as this has gone on. we're all in the same family, but this is a serious business. we seen essentially a destructive political climate in washington. there are things in this bill that weren't in there a week ago that make it a better bill, but this can't be the final version of this bill. it simply sets us on a track in this country which is expensive and where we're going to have lots more political fights where a few senators who are beholden to the insurance industry can hold up the kind of real progress that we could have made had we passed what the president suggested when he was running for president. >> so final question for you as with david axelrod, do you think health care reform, as ultimately passed by this
administration will end up costing democrat steet seethes in the house or in the senate next year? >> it's hard to know without the final result. i think if this bill doesn't go into effect until 2014, it will be so complicated that the republicans will make it a target and we'll have a hard time explaining it. another benefit to the public option, especially the medicare deal on the table a wee ago in the senate is that people could have gotten in in large number, 4 million or 5 million people within two or three months after the president signed the bill. that would have gone a long way to making sure that the american people understood it because their neighbors would have health insurance that didn't have death panels, where you were allowed to charge your doctor, and with all this republican nonsense propaganda would have been put to bed for the american people. that would have made 2010 much better for us. >> we'll send some of our snow up your way. >> thanks, david. up next, the politics behind this health care debate, and the other major challenges now facing president obama. our round table weighs in.
we are joined by our round table now, pbs' tavis smiley, unfortunately because of the snow in los angeles, couldn't make it here. wait, wait, the snow here, couldn't make your flight, so you are out in l.a. and i should just say that you and our audience, of a advice there is a significant delay between us. so we will try to manage all of that
you heard david axelrod say it is in keeping with the principles, in keeping with this health care the way the president campaigned on this and the bill essentially, the reform that americans deserve. what do you say? >> i don't think this is a form bill this is not insurance or health care reform. what it is it is allowing more people, 30 million people to buy into the existing broken system. it is very important to keep in mind that health care insurance is not the same as health care. insurance not the same as care. you can go up to massachusetts. they have a mandate as well and last year, 21% of people in massachusetts could not get health care because they could not afford it. even though they had insurance, the premiums -- not the premiums, health care, co-pays were too high. it is almost rewarding the existing system what is important about this it actually puts the federal government, puts america on the plate to say that health care is a right, not a privilege to just those who are -- who can afford it lucky
enough to have a job, good benefit bus as far as reform goes, i think this is a longbat >> joe scarborough, what has the president achieved? >> he has made a lot of people with insurance stock a lot richer. this is great force for insurance companies. they are going to reform the system. neither side wanted to take on the insurance companies. neither side wanted to get rid of anti-trust exemptions. neither side really pushed hard to allow you or me or anybody here to buy across state lines and as howard dean said this is a devastating fact, insurance companies' stocks reached a 52-year high on friday after this so call reed form bill gathered 60 voles. so david axelrod, love and respect, david axelrod kept saying took on the insurance companies. they are against it really? i n't think so. >> tavis smiley, you always advocated for the public option being part of.
this you heard david axelrod say the president was for it but we know that he didn't really fight for it and governor dean just said, look, without a public option in the ultimate compromise legislation this cannot be considered reform? >> yeah, throughout the campaign, the president promised change, we have change on the horizon here but unfortunately it is small change. i find find myself like howard dean, here i am agreeing with my friend, joe scar bore role i think the winners here are the insurance industry. they are the ones who win here. you walk through that list, david, the points you put up earlier. the president put up the public option, the industry said. no the president wanted to tax their windfall profits, the industry said no the president wanted to do a variety of things the industry pushed back. and here is the problem for me, it is not just, david that we are not getting the kind of health care that we were promised we were going to get it is that in the president's first big fight with a powerful lobby
lost and they lost big and that -- i think portends something very dangerous down the road for all the other issues we have to deal with where lobbies are going to be pushing back on the white house. >> ed gill less pill, speaking for conservatives what, has the president achieved? >> well, i think he has achieved actually lot in terms of expanding the size and scope and power of the federal government and the fact is this bill is an unmitigated disaster it is going to increase the cost to the federal government on health care, doesn't bend the cost curve down. spending is going to go up on health care. increases -- going to increase personal insurance costs to consumers. people are going to have higher premiums, going to increase the debt and deficit before it is all over because the savings are illusory. in fact, 98% of the spending in this bill actually occurs in the fifth year on so they backload the spending, frontload the cost, the tax increases, $518.5 billion in new and higher taxes. $471 billion in medicare cuts. people are going to see their quality of care go down, both in
the -- whether you are a medicare beneficiary or a private insurance beneficiary and i think at the end of the day, this bill is going to cost a lot of democrats a lot of seats. >> going to say david, if i could answer that, what this bill is going to do for conservatives it is like a lot of conservatives, for a lot of the reasons ed just said, but also you look at the daily cost polls and look how democrats are depressed right now. this is -- this is really starting to seem a lot like 2006, where i talked to republicans off the record all the time, they are like, why should we vote for republicans? they are not doing what we sent them to washington to do i think that's what this health care bill does for the democrats. >> markos, the president's radio address yesterday spoke to progressives, defending the merits of this bill. let's watc a portion of what he had to say. ou can proet tecs included in both the health insurance reform bill passed by the house and the version currently on the senate floor would represent the toughest measures we've ever taken to
hold the insurance industry accountable. >> you've heard david axelrod made that same point but you don't buy it? >> it is a low bar. you say the toughest efforts we have ever, we have never had any efforts to hold the insurance companies accountable. yeah, that is the definition. but the fact is that we don't have a system that really -- going to have an industry that has a history of accountability. i mean in california a couple years ago they actually banned recision. blue cross, which is the largest insurer in the state had 1700 recisions the last four years. the state tried to go after them. they were outgunned by the insurance industry's lobbyist and lawyers. >> you mean people that are included? >> people who pay for insurance thinking they had coverage only to have the insurance company come in later and say, no we are not going to cover that expense. so we have a system that cleardy shall an industry that does not believe in accountability, refuse it and fight it is every step of the way. >> what about the idea there is realism and idealism? you may represent the idealist wing of the party but getting
legislation like this through is incredibly difficult, whether it is vicki kennedy and her op ed, senator kennedy was here, she suggests he would be wiing to compromise to get some kind of real reform. >> still fighting this thing, not a done deal, still a consolation to go through. this is a de very difficult process. with add senate that was broken, a minority party that has no interest in governing fights any effort reform deal, wouldn't lend a hand, wouldn't engage in an honest exchange of ideas. i mean, their idea of a debate is to talk about death panels and killing grand match on the other hand, we have $260 million spent by the insurance lobby to fight that bill, that was double what was spend in 2004 by john kerry and george bush in the presidential election. >> tavis smiley, do you think sort of the political consequence of this, of this achievement, if it comes to pass, ultimately hurts or helps democrats next year? think about harry reid, think about blanche lincoln and tough seats. >> i think ultimately, it,
again, depends on what the bill is going to be. i believe tough stand on your principle. all respect to the white house and president who deserves great credit taking this issue on, pushing it down the field, any other seven presidents have done, you industrial to ask where is the principle that we started out with and how if i recall have we stood on that principle? i think the danger for this white house is this, that the president and his team appear to be incrementalists. i warned the last time i was on this program, quoting dr. king about taking the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. i don't know that we get from here to there on all the issues this matter to america that we sounded off on at the polls last year if the strat ski jie on health care, on tur charge on climate change, on the economy is going to be one of incrementalism, that ain't gonna get it done. >> we will take a quick break here and come back. more on the president's political standing, the polls and some of the other big issues he faces. our discussion right after this brief station break.
roundtable, talking about the president's political position, as his first year in office comes to a close. ed gill less pill, let's look at numbers this week, below 50%, 47%. handling the economy, 51% disapproval. handling of foreign poll circumstance the bright spot, 49%, over 42%. he was at a high, approval rating of 61 back in april. what's happened? >> i think he moved way too far to the left, in contrast to others here on the panel today and independent voters moving away from him in droves, republican intensity through the roof. i think when you look at approval of congress, democrats in congress, republicans in congress, research and republican the organization, i founded did some research and 55 years and older voters, 2 to 1 say they trust republicans to handle the issues they care about, independents in that survey over demoats. we haven't seen numbers like that since '94 when joe scarborough and others came in to went house back for
republicans. that kind of scenario is early yet, thing remain constant between now and november, i think democrats are truly at risk of losing the house. it is interesting, joe, on that point. look at this the right track/wrong track direction of the country. we know this is also a measure of independent support in the country. right track, 33%, wrong track, 55%, gets a little closer to wher was in november 2008 and noted this morning, if you look at our poll, the number of people who think this congress is the worst ever is actually higher than it was back in 1994. >> unbelievable, i know. even worse than when i was in congress, which is actually saying hell of a lot. david, the real problem with barack obama's first year has been all these distractions and health care has been a huge distraction for him. i know it is very, very important to debate but he has been talking about health care reform, been talking about afghanistan, we have been talking about cap and trade. we have seen him go to copenhagen twice. i mean, it is jobs, jobs, jobs, the campaign slogan of the year,
bobs for jobs. in the end it is all about jobs. tavis was talking about four or five issues where he showed incrementalism, yes needed to be more bold. no, it all comes down to the economy. if there's a silver lining in this ugly health care debate that's finally come to an end it is that the president can reset going into 2010 and focus on the economy, focus on jobs. he needs to be in youngstown, ohio, instead of copenhagen. he needs to be in cleveland instead of oslo. he needs to focus on reviving this economy. >> you can't talk about health care and afghanistan being distractions. those are the reason that obama won the white house and democrats won control of congress, including big, massive support from independent and independents knew what they were voting for when they voted for owe bam mantd democrats. i think the problem with obama's numbers and congress' numbers is that people vote forward congress that would take on entrenched interests. republicans jumped off the obama bandwagon from day number one, they were never happy.
independents really want results and we haven't seen a lot of results, we have seen bickering and most internally with the democratic party that is why they are turning up, democrats are becoming disenchanted. >> one thing with independents, he has lost -- whatever the as of his i.d. was the postpartisan identity that has gone by the wayside, people see this white house as very partisan. >> you have been through this before? >> yes. >> george bush came to town saying he was going to change the town, be a uniter, not a divider and ended up governing from the right on issues, right out of the chute, tax cuts. so there was something about washington, not just the people who come here. >> but david, when president push passed those tax cuts, 12 senate democrats voted for his tax relief plan, no child left behind, bipartisan support. medicare prescription drug bill got bipartisan support. he did not jam these things through with a straight party line vote. that is what we are seeing now. >> off democratic party actually willing to negotiate in good faith. >> with a center-right agenda
and sent hearn right country and democrats voting for something popular in their district not voting for bills opposed by the majority of the country. >> repudiated by the nation in 2006 and 2008. >> we will see. >> i want to bring something up. this was the president talking about unity. you all talking about here, tavis, i want to bring you in on this. in -- it this is what he said in october, 2008 about what was going to do in washington, listen. >> in one week, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division. the promise of change over the power of the status quo in the last week. we can come together as one nation and one people and once more choose our better history. that's what's at stake. >> way back in january, if you look at our polling, the question was looking ahead, will 2009 be a time of unity? 48% division, 45%. in december. looking back, in fact, 12% unity division, 81%.
tavis? >> that's why campaigning and governing are obvioly two very different things and that's why back to the word of th day tough stand on your principle, tough know why you were elected, what you came to washington to accomplish, keep your eye on the ball, i disdisagree here with joe. all the issues the president has tried to address this year are not distractions. markos is right about. this the president doesn't have the luxury of looking at a checklist and walking down the list and checking off done, done, done, you have to work on all the issues at the same time. joe right about the fact that it is about jobs, jobs, jobs. it is especially about jobs in black america where we are trim the national average in some places, quadruple the national erage of unemployment. i think quite frankly, all respect to "time" magazine, giving ber bernanke the man of the year honor like giving the arsonist a citation of merit for starting a fire and then rushing to put it out. i mean, no talk here about the
role that he and others played in getting must this mess but now we want to celebrity them for trying to get us out? i think it was irresponsible. we have got to keep our eyes on the. but the truth has got to be told in washington how we got in this mess. >> joe, we are on the brink now of a new year. how does the president reset and move forward, change some of this die namic? his approval, relations with republicans? >> he has got to reach out to republicans that want to work with him on issues. he has got some great opportunities. politico reported a few years back he was going to focus on the deficit. kept do to a whole lot with t economy sagging but certainly find some allies there education reform. i'm really excited from what i hear from secretary duncan, what i hear from the president about the fact he is going to take on teachers' unions. he is going to go into schools that have been problematic in the past and really talk about real reform. he can talk about that. also, he can stop deferring to nancy pelosi and henry waxman and capitol hill.
this year has been a year of defd defers are en, like on the sometime muss package, this started earlily, the president came up with an outline a lot of republicans said we may be able to go out with that marched axelrod and summers up to the hill, democrats said, no, we are in charge now tift vision started right away. i would like to know from either tavis or markos where has he reached out to republican nas meaningful way? i haven't seen it one time? >> let me -- because we have litigated -- we litigated some of that? >> i will let tavis take that. >> i want to ask you, you look forward to the next year, markos. hold on, tavis. what does the president need to address to keep his own party in line? should there be personnel changes in the white house? what do you think the left is goin to demand? >> 2006 is going to be a base year. >> 2010? >> yeah, 2010. according to my own polling, we use independent pollster, 86% of republicans plan on turning out
or likely to turn out, only 56% of democrats are similarly believe they are going to turn out or likely it turn out. only 30% of african-americans, only 31% of 18 to 29 year olds. we have numbers like that we are going to get killelein 2010. democrats have to start paying attention to the base, probably start picking some fights. maybe regulatory reform could be a way to do that. >> thank you all. we will leave it there tavis, way out in l.a., thank you for being with us. sorry about the delay. great to have you. thank you all very much. we will continueur discussion with markos, by the way, ask him about the obama agenda, our "meet the press" take two web extra, up on our website this afternoon at mtp.msnbc.com. and we will be right back.